Are Your Church’s Policies Strangling Your Volunteers?


When it’s time for a volunteer to make a decision at your church, how do they do it? Do they have to check with someone in leadership? Is there a policy manual? Is it just up to the whim of the volunteer?


Most churches are in one of those three categories: personality-driven, policy-driven or randomly-driven. Which one appeals most to you? Probably policy, if you’re like me.


There’s huge value to having a code that people can make decisions by. It keeps people from always having to check with the next rung up the ladder or having to just make a decision that feels best to them. Unfortunately, policies can lead to massive manuals that are impossible to follow. It can strangle the life out of an organization. Plus, there are always new situations that require new policies, bringing volunteers back to having to check with their leader before taking action.

I want to propose to you a better system. Value-driven systems. My friend Jason and I talk about it in our new book, The Come Back Effect. While the book is 100% about getting visitors to come back to your church, we believe value-driven decisions are a huge part of creating a church that gets repeat visitors.


Think of it like this.


Every year, it seems like the government is trying to keep up with technology. My city, for instance, has a no texting while driving law. It’s a great policy. The problem is, not everyone is texting. The distraction extends beyond the function. Words with Friends, GPS, Facebook… They all grab drivers’ attention.
So then the government adds a new law. Hands-free phone use only. That’s already an issue with things like Apple Watches, Google Glass, and other wearables. How can it be hands-free if it’s part of your clothes.


Governments will soon write laws about those too. But as long as technology changes, the list of rules will keep getting longer and longer. New problems force new policy.


That’s exhausting. Imagine if instead, the government were able to verbalize a value that we all follow: We don’t drive distracted. That value covers the gamut, and it applies to each of us slightly differently. What’s acceptable and non- distracting for some drivers is distracting for others. Yet, if I need to decide whether or not to text, I can just run it by the value-system. I’ll decide not to.  


Of course, that doesn’t work so well for a government. It requires everyone to buy into the value. For organizations,though, it’s possible. (We talk about how in the book.)


I want to give you some vision on how values can be a better approach for your church. Take, for instance, the parking lot.


A lot of churches are buying Popsigns to put in the hands of their volunteers. “You can sit with me!” It’s a fun sign. But I’m guessing not all of your parking lot attendees have the vibe or personality to hold a sign like that and not feel absolutely silly. You can make a policy that parking lot attendees are supposed to hold that sign. But if the volunteer feels awkward, the purpose isn’t really accomplished.


Instead, some churches teach values like “have fun”. This puts the opportunity into the hands of the volunteer to do what they will feel most natural doing. Some volunteers might want to hold the signs. Some might dance when cars come into the lot. Others might just have fun waving and smiling. The value gives freedom and lets your volunteers be true to themselves, while also reinforcing the culture of the church.


You see the difference?

Next time you’re tempted to institute a new policy in your church, I encourage you to think of the value behind the policy. Teach what your church values and give your volunteers liberty to act on that. I guarantee your volunteers will be more relaxed. That, in turn, will allow your guests to relax. Relaxation begets relaxation. And a relaxed and peaceful experience will get your guests to come back. That’s the power of value-driven over policy-driven organizations.